First-Year Seminars are a critical part of the Common Course of Study, a co-requisite for other courses taken by students in their first semester, and a prerequisite for subsequent courses.

First Year Seminars are limited to around 16 students per section, the First-Year Seminar includes significant reading, writing, discussion, and presentation and is affiliated with the College Writing Program. Students in First-Year Seminars are introduced to the use of the library for research.

Students should select their top 5 First-Year Seminar courses in order of preference.

Students should understand that in case of a schedule conflict between a First-Year Seminar and a required major degree course, the major course will take precedence, and an alternate seminar option will be assigned.


Please review the descriptions below.

FYS 12—Reading Photographs

From your social media feeds to advertising to iconic photographs, “Reading Photographs” will teach you visual literacy. While there have been major technological shifts in how photographs are made, photographs have never lost their importance as arguably the most used form of visual communication in society. This class considers the photographic canon and also what has been left out of that canon. Analytic essays, screenings, field trips, and photographic workshops will give you the practice to examine photographs from multiple vantage points. “Reading photographs” will expose you to the subjective, historical, and theoretical implications of how photographs affect our lives. – Professor Skvirsky

FYS 017 Making Change Democratically

What does social change in a democracy look like? This course equips students with a framework for understanding how social change happens and allows them to identify issues in the local and regional communities surrounding the college that can be tackled through democratic action. Students will deepen their academic understanding while developing as informed, engaged, and effective civic agents. – Professor Rizvi

FYS 20—Appalachia

The region of the Eastern U.S. known as Appalachia is defined by the geological characteristics of the Appalachian Mountains, but also can be characterized and described on the basis of the distinctive natural, historical, cultural, and economic characteristics of the region. It will be the goal of this course to develop the skills to recognize, understand, and evaluate and communicate the complex interrelationships among those factors that define and describe this region of the U.S.  – Professor Husic

FYS 25–Fútbol:  Inside the Beautiful Game (2 sections)

In addition to offering mass entertainment, soccer has been used as a government propaganda machine, is the pillar of multi-billion-dollar enterprises, and has led to wars and questionable social behaviors. Using an interdisciplinary approach, we will explore how soccer is more than just a game. Drawing on readings from sociology, economics, and politics, we will look at soccer as a sport, a form of entertainment, a tool for oppressive regimes, a form of collective identity, and a major force for social change.”   – Professor Ospina-Giraldo

FYS 26–Plagues:  Past and Present

From the Black Death to AIDS, epidemics have resulted in profound social and cultural change. Through an analysis of societies response to selected historical outbreaks, students will learn about epidemic diseases and the social transformations they caused. This seminar examines the ways in which different societies in different eras have responded in times of crisis. The class will also analyze contemporary pandemic preparedness policy and responses to recent health threats.  – Professor Caslake

FYS 28—Money:  The Root of All Evil?

While the most recent financial crisis has heightened awareness of what can happen when the financial systems runs amok, this crisis was just one of several that plagued the markets at various times within the last two centuries. This course focuses on the financial history of currency and the capital markets through a critical examination of their functioning and impact from their beginnings to the present day. – Professor Bukics

FYS 36—Trials of the Century

This interdisciplinary seminar will examine the “Trials of the Century” that have captivated the general public’s attention because of the highly controversial issues they raised, the publicity they received, and the decisions that resulted. By examining these great trials, using political, historical and legal academic lenses, we will refine our critical analytical skills and better understand both our legal and political systems, and the resulting changes in law and society.  – Professor Murphy

FYS 37–I Cannot Live Without Books (Or Liberal Arts)

Books have long been central to making and sharing knowledge, and colleges and universities have grown up around libraries and cultures of reading. How can a deeper understanding of the history of book production and use help us understand the idea of a liberal arts education? This course pursues these questions through research, creative projects, and especially hands-on work with Skillman Library’s rare books collection.  – Professor Phillips

FYS 40—Geological Disasters:  Agents of Chaos

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, hurricanes, floods, and tsunamis are all part of the geological evolution of the earth. Humans are increasingly exposed to the often severe consequences of the violence of nature. This seminar examines these processes from both technical and personal perspectives to understand why they occur and how human activity has interfered with natural processes, perhaps making many parts of the planet more disaster prone.  – Professor Malinconico

FYS 43—Charisma

Charisma, meaning “gift of grace,” denotes a deeply personal, yet anti-institutional type of authority, shared by certain cult leaders and revolutionaries, religious visionaries and political prophets, antinomians and avant garde artists. There is also the charisma of place and thing, from sacred shrines and objects, to famous art works and national monuments. The course will explore the meaning of charisma, with case studies in enthusiastic religion, political revolution, and antinomian avant garde art movements.  – Professor Schneiderman

FYS 49—Global Food

Foods are material substances that are deeply linked to human sustenance, to sociability, status and sensibility, as well as the sway of the senses-whether sparking desire or disgust. In this sense food intrinsically crosses borders and boundaries in at least two ways: first, food challenges us to adopt interdisciplinary approaches to material goods, considering them from different perspectives and adopting different lenses. Second, foods have always been mobile across the globe, shifting in form and meaning as they move between different settings; in this sense, by tracing the circulation of foods in time and space, we can explore a world of emergent sociocultural relations, seeing links between spheres of production, transport and consumption.  – Professor Bissell

FYS 51—Toward Cultural Literacy:  De-Mystifying the Non-Western World

This seminar engages students in an exploration of important cultural traditions outside of the European-American sphere. Through discussions of readings, films, and examples from the visual and performing arts, students investigate customs and rituals in selected regions of Africa, India, China, Japan, Korea, and Indonesia. Through individual projects and presentation, indigenous cultural data are applied to contemporary issues relevant to becoming informed citizens of the world.  – Professor Stockton

FYS 52–Weaponized Media: Living in a World of Bots, Trolls, and Disinformation (2 sections)

Social media sites have become the most powerful distributors of information in human history. They’ve become not only sites of connection and friendship but also of power struggles and violence. This course will consider how malicious actors have weaponized media to change the outcomes of elections, facilitate genocide, and spread conspiracy theories. We will focus on the methods used to exploit social media and on the consequences such exploitation has for the nature of truth.  – Professor Laquintano

FYS 57—Politics and Polling (2 sections)

We will study the history and the science of polling. Polling became popular in the early 20th century, with spectacular successes in marketing and politics. But low response rates present significant challenges for pollsters in the 21st century. Questions we will consider include: How are polls conducted? Do polls measure public opinion or do they influence public opinion? Are some groups of people “more important” to survey? We will learn to study the science, the history and the future of polling in advance of the 2016 presidential election. – Professor Gaugler

FYS 59—Feed the World: Challenging Hunger (2 sections)

This course offers an interdisciplinary look at our food from planting to harvest, distribution and packing, to our tables. Emphasis on combining a social sciences perspective with an engineering human-centered design process to define and address problems of world hunger. Focus on investigation, problem definition, and project-based learning of issues related to global hunger.  –Professor Stewart-Gambino

FYS 68–Mobilizing Science

Scientific research plays a critical role in the way societies overcome challenges and respond to crises. How do societies mobilize scientific activity in the face of such challenges? Who foots the bill? Who decides the priorities? The reading and writing assignments in this seminar will explore the complex interplay between different social forces that mobilize science toward specific ends and examine the moral and ethical quandaries scientists often face when deciding how and whether to participate in the resulting research effort.  – Professor Thomas

FYS 75—Technological Citizenship (2 sections)

What is the social impact of new technologies? Who in society benefits and who is harmed by the rapid development of modern science and technology? How is scientific knowledge created, and how does the public engage with science and technology? This first year seminar examines the rights and responsibilities of technological citizenship by fostering inquiry into how technology is developed and distributed, and how technology and society interact with each other. Drawing on readings from science, engineering and the social sciences, students will reflect on technology’s role in their lives and its relationship to human values. – Professor Rossman

FYS 77—The Dog Course

“Man’s best friend?” Nature’s most successful parasite? Employing a range of perspectives-literary, philosophical, archaeological, biological and technological-we will examine specific constructions of the dog at various moments in human history. We will consider issues of evolution, domestication, the morality and technology of breeding, and the psychological comforts of anthropomorphic representation. Because field trips and other required activities will involve contact with dogs, this course is not recommended for those who may be afraid of dogs or have health issues that could be made worse by interacting with dogs.  – Professor Falbo

FYS 85—Asian Martial Arts in the West

Beginning in the early 20th century, Asian martial arts have attracted the attention of Western audiences. The fighting styles of Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, as well as the internal style of Tai Chi, have demonstrated a strong influence on fighting and self defense in Western culture. This First Year Seminar examines how Asian martial arts function within American culture by investigating topics such as self defense, military strategy, health and fitness, competitive fighting, and popular entertainment.  – Professor Torres

FYS 86—Propaganda

What is propaganda? What are some of the most common propaganda techniques? How, if at all, does propaganda differ from other forms of persuasion? Is the use of propaganda to influence opinion always ethically suspect? How is it suspect? Is it possible that propaganda could be used to communicate accurate information, or must propaganda always be misleading? This First Year Seminar examines these and related questions from an historical, sociological, psychological and philosophical perspective.  – Professor Shieber

FYS 88–Communicating with the Dead

People from many times and places communicate with the dead through seances, prayer, spirit channeling, ghost hunting, ancestor veneration, and in many other ways. In this seminar, students examine various academic and popular sources to understand why the living often maintain active relationships and colloquies with ancestors, saints, ghosts, and other deceased people. Ultimately, this phenomenon can tell us much about the needs and desires of the living in diverse cultural and historical contexts.   – Professor Hendrickson

FYS 98–Misadventure

A sense of adventure compels people to explore uncharted territory, climb high peaks, and cross stormy seas. In the words of John Muir, “the mountains are calling and I must go”—but what happens when things go wrong? Guided by geologic principles, historical context, and adventures of your own, you will analyze non-fictional accounts of misadventure driven by human error in dynamic landscapes. Were the risks worth the rewards—and who are we to say?  – Professor Carley

FYS 102–Color:  A History of Making and Meaning

Learn about the tantalizing history behind some of your favorite colors. Together we will travel to the lapis minds of Afghanistan in search of ultramarine blue and trek across the deserts of Mexico to find a tiny insect that fueled a global market in carmine red. We will study medieval recipes for pigments, read about the human cost and history of producing color, and discuss how this background impacts our understanding of material culture. This seminar will include hands-on instruction and assignments.  – Professor Hupe

FYS 114—The Values of Cinema

Learn how to look at works of cinematic art in an informed and reflective way. We will emphasize the importance, to properly understanding and evaluating a movie, of considering all of its cinematic features, including genre, relationship to other works, screenplay, camera work, music, etc., and of becoming informed on whatever is relevant to the content conveyed-all features that a casual viewer might miss. The seminar includes film screenings outside of regular class time.  –Professor Giovannelli

FYS 116—The Manipulation of Appearances

Social commentators lament an apparent new rise in dishonesty, the inauthentic” and “spin” in contemporary American society. Such critics are late to the party-individuals and institutions have manipulated appearances for their own ends for centuries. In this seminar we will ask: How do people manipulate appearances successfully? What are some consequences of rampant deception in everyday life? To explore those questions we will study theories of deception and impression management and analyze examples like deceptive advertising political spin and lying in social and work relationships.”  – Professor Shulman

FYS 117—Demonstrating Science

Scientific demonstrations are used in lectures, science museums, and television shows to explain scientific principles and inspire wonder about science. How important are such demonstrations to a true understanding of science? Is seeing believing? Is seeing understanding? In this course we will explore the science behind some popular demonstrations and consider the ways in which such demonstrations have educated, obfuscated, or inspired their audiences.  – Professor Boekelheide

FYS 120—Theater and Visual Culture

Our first books are picture books, but as we learn to read, the images disappear and our education focuses on reading and writing WORDS. Yet thousands of images surround us each day-in advertising, media, and theater-yet we are rarely taught how to read, analyze, or acknowledge as intellectual property the non-verbal modes of communication. This course will introduce students to techniques for analyzing visual images, focusing on: static images (such as print advertising), “sequential art” (such as graphic novels) and the “languages” of the stage (such as collaborative performance). We will discuss how we receive and respond to images, and how those images function artistically, ethically, and culturally.  – Professor Westfall

FYS 122—Psychology and the Media

The media has powerful effects on our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. In turn, psychology can help us understand how we consume and relate to the media. This seminar will introduce students to the wide variety of ways in which media and psychology interact. Selected topics include advertising and persuasion, self-help forums and mobile health, news coverage of psychology-related stories, media depictions of violence, and how psychopathology is (mis)portrayed in various media outlets.  – Professor Wenze

FYS 130–Being Non-Human

What does it mean to be human in the contemporary world? Is there a common humanity? If so, what do humans share with each other that other living beings do not have? In this course we will explore how the definition of humanity has historically rested on assumptions about nonhuman life, and we will consider how various scholars and artists have approached the nonhuman—from bacteria to animals to cyborgs—in their work.  – Professor Vora

FYS 138—Theater and Social Justice

 For thousands of years, the theater has both entertained and provided a forum in which social issues can be explored. This seminar will investigate, through readings and performances, how theater provides an immediate and strong voice to debate social and political problems. Students will have opportunities, through writing, discussion, and theatrical performance, to explore social and political issues and the ways in which dramatic works can inspire social change.  –Professor Lodge

FYS 144–Making Sex:  Histories of Sexuality

This course starts from the assumption that sex, like any other human activity, is a social, and therefore historical, phenomenon that is shaped by culture, politics, and society rather than biologically based. Using a historical approach, this course will explore how societies across the world, from Antiquity to the present, have constructed sexuality and sexual identities; how they have regulated sexual behavior; and how people have evaded, resisted, and accommodated this regulation.  – Professor Sequin

FYS 148—Melding Mind and Medicine

From gaming to restoring motor activity, Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) has provided humankind with an alternate means to control an external device. Invasive and Non-Invasive BCI devices use detected brain activity to control assistive devices, such as a robotic arm, wheelchair, or game controller. In this seminar we will explore the ethical considerations surrounding the research and development of BCI technology as we continue to blur the lines between human and machine.  –Professor Gabel

FYS 151—In the Media

Movies, social media, newspaper articles, and television can inform, transport, and entertain. Documentaries often lay out ethical, leadership, business, or government controversies, but these issues arise in fictional work as well, such as the movie Inception. In this course, students use various media products as the starting point for discussions of ethical standards and normative claims.  – Professor Crain

FYS 158—Nonviolence:  Theory and Practice

This course explores both the theoretical development of nonviolence and the practice of nonviolence as a means for waging and resolving conflict. Using the examples of Mohandas Gandhi and India’s independence movement, the 1989 revolutions in Eastern Europe, the power of music in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, as well as the personal testimonies of individuals and various groups pursuing nonviolent change in the Lehigh Valley, this course explores the principles of nonviolence in action.  –Professor Fabian

FYS 167–Animals in History

How have “animals” and “humans” made history together? How can we think and write about history beyond the human? Through the reading and writing assignments in this course, students will reflect on their own understandings of human-animal relationships over the last several centuries in cities, entertainment, food, empire, and the “wild.” We will approach these questions through various lenses: environmental history, cultural history, disability studies, political anthropology, and the history of capitalism.  –Professor Zallen

FYS 171—Sounds of Silence

Is silence a rare commodity in the Information Age? Is “noise” everywhere, or do sound and silence emerge in patterned ways? Are all silences identical? This course explores the many “sounds” of silence. We seek it at a meditation class, and consider how it structures everyday conversation and even life on a college campus. We turn to conspiracies of silence, and ask how social silencing works: who silences whom, how, and why?  – Professor A. Smith

FYS 179—Leveraging Social Entrepreneurship to Alleviate Poverty and Unfreedoms

Market-based social entrepreneurship as an approach to addressing poverty, unfreedoms and the lack of localized agency among the poor in economic development has seen a rise in prominence. This is often attributed to the failures of national governments, multi-lateral agencies, and conventional philanthropy to respond dynamically to the challenges posed by changing global and technology landscapes. These failures also reflect a reliance on an outmoded development paradigm that is both inattentive and unresponsive to the modern needs of income poor people to be primary owners of their development experiences, a possibility made more realistic because of globalization and technological change. In essence, as first noted by Adam Smith and reported in Amarta Sen, freedom of exchange and transaction is in itself part and parcel of the basic liberties that people have to celebrate, and as Sen himself points out, “the freedom to participate in economic interchange has a basic role in social living.”– Professor Hutchinson

FYS 195—Russia Today

“A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma,” is how Winston Churchill famously described Russia. Decades later, after the Cold War and amidst the resurgence of Russia’s influence on the world stage, this FYS asks the question: what is Russia today? Taking into account conservative and liberal currents, we will study mass media, contemporary literature and cinema, and activism under Putin with an eye to challenging our assumptions about Russian culture, identity, and history.  –Professor Sanborn

FYS 196—Exploring Chinese Culture

What does it mean to be Chinese? What are some central aspects of Chinese culture? How do the traditional values and beliefs continue to shape contemporary China? Through a combination of lectures, discussions, and cultural events, this seminar will provide the students with a grasp of significant cultural achievements in China and the critical vocabulary that is essential to discuss and analyze Chinese culture and related issues in an intelligent and informed manner.  –Professor Luo